Yesterday I drove past the dance studio where my sister and I spent so many childhood afternoons, and from there I found my way to our old home on Briar Hill Rd. It’s been over 10 years since we packed up and moved out of that house, but somehow my memory allowed me to find that place hidden between the back roads with ease, almost like we never even left.
I don’t know what made me want to go back there. When we moved out years ago I was certain I’d never return, but yesterday, something inside of me wanted to go back.
I wondered what family might be making memories there now; I wondered how they might have changed the landscaping or the front door. But as I pulled up to the top of the driveway, much to my amazement, nothing had changed. Like an image straight from a storybook of my childhood, it was just as I had remembered, and I felt so much nostalgia I just had to get out and walk around.
As I made my way through the thick, untouched snow on the driveway, my mind was replaying so many different scenes from my younger days. I looked in the back door at the dark, empty house and remembered a time when it was so full of life. So many tiny humans used to run those kitchen floors, and I could see the corner that I stood in for the better part of many days. The swing set that I watched be built from the ground up still stood in the backyard in all its battered glory. The same blue slide leading into the pool, surrounded by the same concrete that I stuck my toes into against the instruction of the builders, it all remained the same.
I sat down on the back deck in the frigid temperatures in a big pile of snow, tears frozen to my cheeks at the sight of so much familiarity. So much emotion tied to so many memories, yet such comfort in the sameness of what used to be, that I stayed there a while just to take it all in.
I thought of all the days I spent standing in the corner; of all the nights I spent standing tip-toed by the stove “helping” my mom cook dinner. I thought of all the moments Bethany and I stood in the garage, entertained for hours by our own imaginations. I thought of the place I stood in the backyard when I slammed a metal baseball bat into my neighbor’s forehead, which was the same place I spilled my coveted dessert one evening after Saturday night church. I remember where we played kickball in the field and getting in trouble for climbing up the spiral slide. I remember getting in trouble with a babysitter when Bethany cracked the code to the back fence. I remember when we had friends over and my dad, trying to impress them, threw me over his shoulder in the pool and I busted my jaw. It was the same pool from which my brother’s lifeless body was pulled.
After my brother died, we didn’t play much in the backyard anymore. We didn’t swim in that pool, we didn’t swing on that swing set. Soon after when we moved from that house, it was easy to associate it with the dark days we wanted to forget.
Yesterday I was reminded of life in a house that holds the good and bad memories alike. That’s life. It’s a beautiful combination of really good and really hard. We are broken people living broken lives in a world that’s often a difficult place to thrive. But the beauty in being able to look back on the places we’ve stood is recognizing that we never stood in any of them alone. Not once. And though tangible evidence of the places He’s stood with us is impossible to grasp, the remembrance of His presence is stronger than anything our hands could ever hold.
I was reminded of that yesterday, filled with familiarity of not only the places I stood, but of the places He stood with me. In the kitchen with bloody knees, in my bedroom late at night with a fearful heart, at the pool’s ledge – He was there.
Grace. It carried us. Through long nights and dark days, through the valley of the shadow of death, it carried us. And now, as life races by full speed ahead, as we make new memories and cling to old ones, as we step into some great unknowns, grace carries us now, too.
At a time in my life when everything seems to be a in constant state of change, I’m grateful I could go back to a place that hasn’t changed, even after so much time has passed. As I soaked in the bittersweet recollections from my childhood, Jesus met me there on that back deck and blanketed my heart with that kind of peace that only He can give and reminded me gently that He’s just like that old house of mine…
He hasn’t changed either.
There’s nothing I’ve placed in His hands that He hasn’t handled.
Thank you, Lord, for holding us.